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Zachary Levi reveals mental breakdown sent him to psych ward

Zachary Levi revealed he once had a “complete mental breakdown” that led to a three-week stay in a psych ward.

“I’ve struggled with this stuff most of my life,” the actor, 41, said on Elizabeth Vargas’ “Heart of the Matter” podcast in a sneak peek obtained by the Hollywood Reporter Thursday.

“I didn’t realize that I was struggling with these things until I was 37, about five years ago, and I had a complete mental breakdown.”

Levi explained that his struggles with mental health began growing up with a mom who had borderline personality disorder and a stepdad who was a “perfectionist.”

“I was an embarrassment to the family. I mean, it was lots of vitriol, lots of yelling,” he recalled.

The “Shazam!” star shared that he eventually turned to “sex or drugs or booze or things to distract me from, to numb myself from the pain that I was running away from most of my life.”

Zachary Levi posing on a red carpet.
The actor admitted to using sex, drugs and alcohol to “numb [himself] from the pain.”

“The irony is that booze can give you this temporary relief, but then the next day amplifies that anxiety tenfold,” he continued. “So, then you’re running back to get more, and it just becomes this vicious cycle.”

Levi admitted to “running away” from his problems by moving to Austin, Texas, and launching Wyldwood Studios in May 2020.

“My career was in a place where I felt like even though I had accomplished so many things up to that point, I was still, and to be honest, even now, I still feel this way. I feel like I’m a bit on the outside looking in,” he added. “I’ve never really felt like I am a part of whatever the cool kid group is.”

Zachary Levi posing on a red carpet.
Levi moved to Austin, Texas, a few years ago but acknowledged that he didn’t have the same support system there.
Getty Images for CMA

The “Chuck” alum’s mental health struggles eventually escalated to him having panic attacks over where to eat.

“I drove around probably for 10 minutes not knowing which place to eat because I didn’t know which place was the right place to eat as opposed to just saying, ‘Zach, just go eat some food,” he explained.

“I’m sitting in my truck, and vividly, I remember I was holding onto the wheel, and I was just shaking back and forth, that like almost trying to shake myself out of what was going on, and I’m just weeping. I’m just crying. I’m like, ‘God, help me.’”

Zachary Levi posing on a red carpet.
“I was holding onto the wheel, and I was just shaking back and forth,” Levi recalled of one major panic attack.

Levi revealed that he eventually visited an emergency room because of suicidal thoughts and ultimately ended up in a psych ward.

“I was having very active thoughts of ending my life,” he shared. “It wasn’t the first time I had had them. I had been in dark places in my life before, but I guess in those moments I had people around me.

“The lies are whispering into my ear, and the failure that I felt that I was enough to be like, ‘Zach, it doesn’t feel like you’re going to make it out of this.’”

The cover of Zachary Levi's memoir, "Radical Love."
Levi’s memoir, “Radical Love,” hits stores June 28.

In the psych ward, the Tony nominee participated in “intensive life-changing, life-saving therapy,” and he has since found ways to manage his struggles.

“I think one of the most important things, at least for me, is taking my thoughts captive,” he said. “Our minds are so powerful, but they are so easily, so easily hijacked if we don’t really go, ‘Oh, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait. I’m doing it again. I’m starting to speak ill of myself again. I’m starting to be harsh or critical of myself. I’m starting to judge where I’m at in my life.’”

Levi’s memoir, “Radical Love: Learning to Accept Yourself and Others,” hits stores June 28.

If you or someone you know is affected by any of the issues raised in this story, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) or text Crisis Text Line at 741741.

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